Monday, December 13, 2010
Sierra Leone has a history of violence when it comes to its natural
resources, but the potential discovery of the world's largest iron ore
supply has others fearful that chaos will soon erupt.
London-based firm African Minerals has claimed to have found an
11.7-billion-ton deposit of iron ore about 140 miles east of the capital
city Freetown. The company said that over 10,000 jobs could be created
if the discovery holds true, but locals are already up in arms about the
project. The iron ore is also near the 50-MW Bumbuna hydroelectric dam,
valued at over $200 million and it, too, could possibly suffer backlash
as locals are calling it sacred ground.
African Minerals could be the single largest employer in the country,
but it needs land. And with some claiming that the company is already
falling short on its promises for aid, many locals are refusing to
evacuate the area in which African Minerals so desperately needs. On
November 25, disappointment grew into riots as residents staged
protests. Police were forced to use tear gas and shot live rounds in the
air in order to disperse the crowd. However, reports surfaced that
several people were badly beaten.
That night, younger residents went to the mining site and destroyed a
$400,000 drilling rig owned by African Minerals. Although the company
plans to continue its mining, tensions are mounting.
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